TERRE HAUTE —
They couldn’t make it easy on their coach, no matter how hard they tried.
Visiting Terre Haute North, which hadn’t beaten Terre Haute South in regular-season high school volleyball in 18 consecutive meetings, sped to an early 2-0 lead Thursday night in the Braves’ gym, only to falter in the third game and then fall behind 10-4 in the fourth in the annual “Volleyball for the Small” match.
The Braves, interim coach Stephanie Millington admitted later, thought they had the Patriots right where they wanted them.
Two big service runs helped the Patriots snap the streak, however, Maddy Howes getting the last five points of a 6-0 run that tied the score at 10 and Mandee Eberle getting the last nine in a 10-0 run that erased South’s last lead (17-15) and finally got the monkey off the back of coach Kris Painter — who inherited quite a bit of the losing streak — by a 3-1 score.
“Eighteen, 19, 20? Too long [a losing streak], I can tell you that,” she said as her players cavorted with North fans on the court after the match was over.
If Painter was nervous, as her team fell behind in that fourth game, she tried not to show it.
“We’ve talked a lot about staying calm, and I tried to emulate that,” she said. “I just wanted [the Patriots] to stay the course.”
Setter Anna Taylor, whose 42 assists fueled the North offense, claimed she was never nervous.
“I had so much faith in my team,” she said. “We never gave up … it’s amazing to know we’re all part of [breaking the streak].”
“We’re going to remember this for a really long time,” said Eberle. “It felt great. We’ve worked for this all year.”
The Patriots haven’t been huge underdogs in this series lately, but the 2013 edition started the match like they were expecting to win.
“I saw a different group of kids on the bus tonight,” Painter said. “More focused. I really thought we would get this done.”
North broke the last tie of the first game with an 11-2 run that put the Patriots ahead 19-10, and they cruised home 25-15.
The second game, the one that should have made everyone in the gym be glad that rally scoring was introduced a few years ago, was back and forth for a very long time, and when Caitlyn Newton served an ace for a 10-8 South lead it was just the second point South had scored on its serve — and North hadn’t scored on its serve at all.
Newton actually got three points in her term of service and South led 12-8, but after three more sideouts it was North’s turn. Howes got four points in a row, giving North its first lead at 14-13, and a later 5-0 run — Valerie Lewis doing the serving — opened some daylight to 21-16 in the Patriots’ favor. The game final was 25-18.
South jumped out 6-3 in the third game, but the Patriots quickly tightened it up. Back-to-back aces by Riley Davis gave the Braves breathing room at 15-12, and with the Braves clinging to a 17-16 lead it was Newton who took over.
The highly touted 6-foot-1 freshman had eight kills the rest of the game — in other words, she had a kill for every South point down the stretch — and the Braves took a 25-20 decision and perhaps some momentum.
“It took a long time to get our younger kids’ nerves out,” said Millington, whose setter Natalie Scamihorn is also a ninth-grader. “We were playing on edge for awhile.”
Newton had a pair of aces in the 6-0 run that gave South a quick 7-2 lead in the fourth game and added a kill as the lead grew to 10-4. But, Millington noted later, there was a down side to that — “We need to rely on more than one person,” is how she put it — and the Patriots started their comeback.
Trailing 17-14, North got a kill from Eberle off a South block, and then she went to the service line.
“I knew I had to go out and be aggressive,” she said later when looking back at that crucial part of the match. “I didn’t think … I just had to go out there and be aggressive.”
Her first serve certainly was aggressive, painting the opposite sideline to cut the lead to 17-16. After a South error, Eberle got a second ace. After a kill by Lindsey Klingele, she got a third one.
“At 17-17, I thought to myself, ‘I think we’re going to do this,’ ” Painter said later.
“We let little things turn into big things,” Millington noted, “and we couldn’t recover.”
In addition to her 42 assists, Taylor had 15 digs. Eberle had 19 kills and 10 digs — plus 11 points and four aces — and Brianna Burgess had 16 kills, including three in a row that started the comeback from the 10-4 deficit and two of the last three North points in the match. Howes had 18 digs and 14 points.
Newton finished with 25 kills, 17 digs, 14 points and six aces for South, while Scamihorn handed out 34 assists and had 14 digs and senior libero Marissa Coutinho had a match-high 24 digs while serving as a steadying influence on her younger teammates.
Coutinho’s legacy will go far beyond her play on the court, however. She and her older sister Larina have been among the driving forces that have turned this match into a lot more than high school volleyball.
What started a few years ago as a fund raiser for breast cancer research has morphed into Volleyball for the Small, and proceeds from Thursday have pushed the amount raised for the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Union Hospital well past the $50,000 mark. The annual Parade of Babies prior to the varsity match is a testament to the good work the girls on both teams have done.
“That is very encouraging,” Coutinho said when the dollar figure was mentioned to her. “The greater purpose for this game is to raise money, and both teams have worked really hard. It’s great to see the hard work paying off.
“One thing I’m definitely proud of is this game,” she continued, “and I’m very positive it was carry on a long time.”
It’s also an event from a spectator standpoint, probably the best-attended volleyball match of every season and certainly the loudest. Student sections from both schools were at fever pitch long before the first serve.
“To win, we had to block all that out,” Eberle said afterward, “but when we did something great, [the North crowd] definitely helped.”
“I don’t think [game atmosphere] gets much better than this,” Millington agreed.
Terre Haute North 25 25 20 25
Terre Haute South 15 18 25 18
Highlights — For North, Anna Taylor had 42 assists, 15 digs, 2 kills, a block, 6 points and an ace; Mandee Eberle 19 kills, 10 digs, a block, 11 points and 4 aces; Maddy Howes 18 digs, 14 points and an ace; Brianna Burgess 16 kills, 6 digs, 7 points and 3 aces; Kristen Mauer 9 digs, 3 assists and 3 points; Valerie Lewis 5 kills, 3 blocks, 6 points and an ace; Lindsey Klingele 6 kills, 2 blocks and a dig; Emily Brashier 3 kills, 3 assists, 2 digs and a block; and Lauren Comer 6 digs.
For South, Caitlyn Newton had 25 kills, 17 digs, 14 points and 6 aces; Natalie Scamihorn 34 assists, 14 digs and 4 points; Marissa Coutinho 24 digs, 6 assists, 2 points and an ace; Riley Davis 6 digs, 6 points and 3 aces; Kaitlynn Gilmore 14 digs; Maddie Callahan 9 kills and 5 digs; Bailee Williams 6 kills, 3 digs, 2 assists and a block; Meaghan Etling 2 kills, a block and 3 points; Maddy Jaeger 4 blocks and a dig; and Allison Kittell 2 digs.
JV — North won 25-17, 25-14.
Next — Terre Haute North (12-5, 1-1 Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference) plays Saturday at the Jennings County tournament. Terre Haute South (11-11, 0-2) plays Monday at West Vigo.
Eberle paces Patriots with 19 kills
TERRE HAUTE —
They couldn’t make it easy on their coach, no matter how hard they tried.
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